Eric Sevareid, Italo Calvino, and NASA’s Watery Disappointment

We’re not in a hurry to get to the moon; there doesn’t appear to be a lot to do there – great view of Earth, of course, and the air is clean. Up close, though, the moon looks like an ancient Egyptian golf course. The moon was probably once covered with lush greens and lovely azaleas surrounding freshwater hazards, but the groundsmen disappeared long ago, around the time the gamekeepers were laid off.

Now, NASA tells us there is water on the moon, lots of it, but not enough to get the surfboard out.

Italo Calvino, in “The Distance of the Moon,” tells us of a time when the moon was much closer to the Earth, and could be reached by climbing a ladder: “…from the top of the ladder, standing erect on the last rung, you could just touch the Moon if you held your arms up.”

William S. Marshall, a staff scientist and dowser at the NASA Ames Research Center, recently contributed a woeful Op-Ed piece to the Times describing NASA’s disappointment in the public’s waned response to its recent divining-wand blast: “Almost as surprising as NASA’s announcement [of water in the moon] is the lack of attention it has received. Thirty years ago, a development like this would have been heralded as one of humanity’s greatest discoveries.”

But what was the response decades ago to NASA’s climbing the ladder to the moon? To find out, we looked up our old friend Eric Sevareid, who, in a short opinion piece titled “The Dark of the Moon” (1958), a radio piece written when NASA was created to erect a lunar ladder, said, “It is exciting talk, indeed, the talk of man’s advance toward space. But one little step in man’s advance toward man – that, we think, would be truly exciting.”

Alas, they may have found water on the moon, but here on Earth, we are still thirsty.